April 24, 2019

Dr. Chang Quoted in a Health.com Article About Holding in a Sneeze Dangers

With spring coming, people are sneezing quite a bit more. However, with more sneezing, there's also more people who try to hold their sneeze for social reasons.

Dr. Chang was contacted by Health.com regarding what bad things could happen if you hold in your sneeze. The article was published on April 24, 2019.

Quoted from the article:
"...the list of possible consequences is scarier than the trailer for Us. We’re talking: fractured cartilage around your voice box, neck pain, fractures of bones in your face, rupturing of ear drums, hearing loss, ear infections, vertigo, air trapped under a layer of skin, broken ribs, hernias, vision changes, and ruptured aneurysms, says Christopher Chang, MD, a Warrenton, Virginia-based otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon with Fauquier ENT Consultants. All from a sneeze, nervous friends. (Just last year, you might remember, the internet lost its mind when a 34-year-old man ruptured his throat from holding in a sneeze.)

Otolaryngologists call a stifled sneeze a “closed-airway sneeze,” Dr. Chang explains. “When a sneeze is initiated, a lot of pressure builds up in your lungs, and the sneeze is let out all at once forcefully,” he says.

He tipped me off to a 2000 report from the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases that found a stifled sneeze can produce up to a whopping 176 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) of pressure. Don’t ask me to explain why millimeters of mercury is used to measure pressure, but instead compare that to how much pressure is produced when you let a sneeze rip: a measly 4.6 mm Hg. That is a dramatic difference, Dr. Chang confirms, and “when you hold in a sneeze, that pressure has to go somewhere.”

Our bodies are somewhat flexible and stretchy, obvi, so he likens us to soccer balls: “A soccer ball probably won’t pop, but rarely it could, if you exert enough pressure. It can stretch and come back to normal form. Just like a soccer ball, enough pressure could cause damage to the body, but it’s pretty rare.”

Weirder still is that you, the stifler of sneezes, control where that misdirected pressure goes in your body—which could then affect what unsuspecting and undeserving body part ruptures, fractures, or breaks. If you’re a nose pincher, you’re forcing that pressure searching for an “out” hole up into your face, making it more likely to rupture an eardrum or screw with your vision, Dr. Chang says. Someone who closes their throat to trap sneeze pressure in their chest is more likely to deal with a rib fracture or vocal cord damage.
Read the full article here!

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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